Wednesday, November 8, 2006

Tarting Up The Roof

A few months ago, I introduced a client to Google Earth. We were able to take a close aerial view of her house in the Hollywood Hills, down to the pool furniture. She was excited, but then shrieked, "Oh my god, I need to do something about the roof!" She was terrified that her friends would discover Google Earth before she had a chance to beautify her toiture. She became instantly roof-conscious.She's not alone. In a recent story for the L.A.Times, architecture critic Christopher Hawthorne writes,
One of the most dramatic shifts to hit the architecture world in decades [is] the growing prominence of the roof in the design of buildings, neighborhoods and even whole cities.

Thanks in part to the surging popularity of Google Earth and other Web-based programs, which give the public a bracingly new, if detached, way to interact with the built environment, rooftops are shedding their reputation as forgotten, wind-swept corners of the urban landscape and moving toward the center of architectural practice.
The roof as the "fifth façade", as Le Corbusier saw it?
Architects say the influence of the bird's-eye view seems to grow by the week. Clients arrive for preliminary meetings having studied overhead views of their building sites on the Internet. And if you sit in on thesis reviews at an architecture school these days, chances are quite good that a student presentation will begin with an image from Google Earth or another online source.
Hawthorne reviews a series of projects across the world, arguing that they "herald the emergence of a new, hybrid brand of urban planning, one that mixes elements of highly marketable, camera-ready design, earthworks and the perspective made possible by Google Earth."

A special mention to Renzo Piano's California Academy of Sciences, and to Dubai's Palm Jumeirah, the epitome of aerial-ready. And what better subject than L.A.'s sprawl and ecology for googlers?
photo sources: CA Academy of Sciences, Palm Jumeirah

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